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Head to Head: Transition Spur vs. Yeti SB115 Bike Review

We still aren’t entirely sure what that Downcountry means, but we appreciate that brands are pushing themselves to create more versatile cross-country bikes. Years ago, bikes like the Santa Cruz Blur 4x became wildly popular, and for good reason. An efficient, short-travel bike with geometry and suspension that allowed them to punch well above their weight class on the descents made bikes like the 4x cult classics. These days, XC bikes (much like DH bikes) have become race-specific, which makes them the obvious choice for competition, but a less enjoyable choice for those seeking a mountain bike they’ll ride regularly.

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Our interpretation of “downcountry” is that it’s just another label. But if it translates to XC bikes that don’t become a liability when pointed downhill, we’re all for them, no matter what the characterization. They may be short on travel, but they make up for it with geometry, suspension, and parts that allow them to descend shockingly well. The Yeti SB115 and Transition Spur are two recent efforts to capture this spirit. In one corner, Yeti has chosen to modify their XC-race-oriented SB100, and in the other, Transition has designed their bike from the ground up. For the past several months we have been comparing and contrasting these two bikes, which as it turns out, have vastly different characters on the trail despite similar intentions.

Highlights

Yeti SB115

  • 115mm rear travel // 130mm front travel
  • Patented Switch Infinity suspension
  • All-new linkage adds travel and capability while maintaining  desired geometry and without an inverse affect on efficiency
  • High modulus carbon fiber main frame and swingarm
  • Integrated 2-bolt ISCG05 mounts
  • Integrated 41mm / 52mm tapered headtube
  • Boost hub spacing, front and rear
  • Custom downtube protector and chain guards
  • Internally molded carbon tubes for cable routing
  • Integrated axle and derailleur hanger system
  • Custom Switch Infinity fender
  • Clearance for standard sized water bottle inside main frame
  • Uninterrupted seat tube for compatibility with longer travel dropper posts
  • 29-inch wheels
  • Available in Anthracite, Turq (tested), and Blanco colors
  • Weight: 29.7 pounds as tested (XL frame, XTR Trail pedals, Specialized SWAT Zee cage and tool)
  • Lifetime Warranty
  • MSRP: $7,000 as tested

Transition Spur

  • 120mm travel front and rear with 45mm stroke shock
  • Option to run 100mm rear travel with 37.5mm Stroke Shock
  • Enduro Max sealed bearings with bearing shields on main pivot
  • Flex stay rear triangle
  • SBG Geometry
  • Full carbon frame (front triangle, rear triangle and rocker)
  • 44mm/56mm press-in headset
  • Boost hub spacing, front and rear
  • Threaded bottom bracket
  • Molded rubber chainstay and downtube protection
  • External rear brake cable routing
  • Fully guided rear derailleur cable routing in downtube and chainstay
  • Water bottle storage inside front triangle and underside of downtube
  • Accessory mount on underside of top tube
  • 29-inch tire clearance up to 2.4 inches
  • Weight: 28.5 pounds as tested (Large frame, XTR Trail pedals, Lezyne Cage, OneUp EDC pump and tool, E13 LG1 Race DH tire)
  • MSRP: $5,999 as tested

 

Geometry Differences

The most notable difference between the Yeti SB115 and the Transition Spur is geometry. The Yeti takes a far more traditional approach, let’s call it XC-inspired, which is no surprise given that the bike is a modified SB100. The Transition takes a modern approach, let’s call it enduro-inspired geometry. Reach and wheelbase are the most significant variants: the large SB115 has a reach of 450.6mm, where the Spur is almost 30mm longer at 480mm. The difference is dramatic enough that we opted to up-size our Yeti to the XL frame, which still has a shorter reach (470.5mm) than the large Spur. On paper, the Transition should excel on trails where riders will remain standing, and descending at higher speeds. The Yeti may be a little more akin to tighter, slower trails where maneuverability is the priority. The Spur also has a significantly longer wheelbase, and slacker headtube angle at 66-degrees versus 67.6, also adding to the expectation of more stable descending geometry on the Spur.

Yeti SB115 Geometry

Transition Spur Geometry

These differences in the two geometries provide completely different riding positions, both seated and standing. The Yeti SB115 is undoubtedly the more "classic" of the two bikes, with their Forward Bias Posture looking quite conservative when compared to the Spur’s Speed Balanced Geometry. Yeti’s use of their SB100 front and rear triangles with an updated link and shock is a great way to modify an existing frame into a new one, and this decision results in their SB115 feeling like a long-legged XCO racer. The Transition Spur on the other hand has geometry similar to a modern enduro bike, and feels like one, but with weight, travel, and suspension kinematics of an XCO bike.

Yeti SB115 Forward Bias Posture

For many riders, geometry is the deciding factor between bikes. In our test case, the drastically different geometry approaches of the SB115 and the Spur should be considered as their riding personalities are very different as a result.

Suspension

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The Yeti SB115 features a short-travel-specific design of Switch Infinity, turned 90 degrees and optimized for lighter weight and efficiency. Our bike was fitted with a 190x45mm Fox Float DPS shock, set at 30% sag as per Yeti’s recommendations. The Switch Infinity system allows for dramatic shifts in suspension feel throughout the bike’s travel. The SB115 has a relatively high anti-squat, but then it drops off sharply as the bike goes deeper into the travel. This trait is meant to give the Yeti SB115 the pedaling prowess of the SB100, but the square-edge-hit forgiveness of the SB130.

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The Transition Spur uses the GiddyUp suspension design, with a one-piece flex stay rear triangle. With 30% progression and a linear rate of change, there ought to be no abrupt changes in suspension feel, and the addition or removal of volume spacers can tune bottom-out resistance further for those in need. The flex stay rear triangle isn’t necessarily a surprise, but if Lars Sternberg has been flogging a Spur for months and is still running the same rear end, we’re pretty sure it’ll be okay for most of us. The Spur's rear travel can also be reduced to 100mm with a shorter shock.

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Both Yeti and Transition have approached their respective bikes with the same priorities: finding a balance between efficiency and forgiveness. That said, Yeti’s more complex Switch Infinity design is widely regarded as one of the more refined suspension configurations available, and Transition's simpler GiddyUp link and newly designed flex stay need to be truly impressive to keep pace with such an established, high-performance design.

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On The Trail

In and out of the saddle, the Yeti is a truly impressive climber. Not once were we tempted to use shock compression to firm things up, and the same firm feeling on fireroads transfers over to outstanding technical climbing manners. Many bikes that excel on road climbs have so much anti-squat that they struggle on technical climbs. This is not the case with the SB115 — the suspension is dialed. The slack seat tube angle did leave us feeling more reclined than we’ve come to prefer, but it wasn’t so far off the back that we couldn’t compensate to some degree by slamming the saddle forward. Even though the seat tube angle wasn’t as steep as we desire, the SB115 is a wheelie machine (in a good way), and the front end lifts easily while climbing up ledges and over larger roots. While the suspension feel of the Yeti is fantastic on the way up, don't think the Transition is a subpar climber.

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Overall, the Yeti SB115 gets the nod in the climbing department.

The Spur climbs well, albeit a little less efficiently compared to the Yeti. There is more suspension movement on road climbs, and the rear end doesn’t track quite as well through technical sections. That said, we found the seated climbing position much more comfortable on the Transition, due in large part to the steeper seat tube angle and longer reach. This would have been more pronounced had we gone with a large SB115 rather than our up-sized XL. Overall, the Yeti SB115 gets the nod in the climbing department.

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Rolling terrain results in a stalemate between the two bikes. The Yeti’s suspension continues to impress, while the geometry prevents us from feeling truly comfortable. The Transition is just the opposite: suspension is good, not great, but the geometry is nearly perfect for our taste. Instead of feeling like one had the upper hand overall, we feel that personal riding style will determine which of these bikes is “better.”

Riders coming from traditional (now old-school) geometry will find the SB115 extremely intuitive. On slower, tighter, and more technical terrain, the Yeti’s compact geometry paired with great suspension worked very well. The SB115 carries speed extremely well, too. It rolls fast, and generates speed like a slalom bike through rollers. If we were based on the East Coast, where we spend more time in the saddle and at slower speeds due to technical terrain, the Yeti would be our choice. The Transition is better suited for riders coming from the long, low, slack end of the spectrum. The Spur is a better call when trails are faster, steeper, and generally rougher. This was due in large part to the geometry, which feels just about perfect. The GiddyUp suspension and flex stay rear pivot worked well, but did tend to stiffen up under heavy braking, more than the Switch Infinity on the SB115. Riders need to take an honest look in the mirror when choosing between these bikes, rather than looking at marketing speak. They really are that different machines for different experiences.

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We did horrible things to the Spur, not because we tried to break it (white lie), but at times we simply forgot that it only had 120mm of travel.

The Yeti has the potential to be ridden extremely aggressively. The suspension rarely bottomed hard, and it performed well under hard braking compared to the Spur. Suspension aside, we felt limited by the SB115’s geometry on descents, noting that the short reach, tall stack, and shorter wheelbase proved twitchy. Had we chosen the large frame, the stack height would have been in our wheelhouse, but the reach and wheelbase issues would have magnified. The Transition is just the opposite: the geometry is dialed, so much so that the suspension became the limiting factor. We did horrible things to the Spur, not because we tried to break it (white lie), but at times we simply forgot that it only had 120mm of travel. If it weren’t for the audible screams of pain as the suspension bottomed, we might not have realized. We added volume spacers, but then the SIDLuxe Ultimate shock became harsh, so we opted for the occasional hard bottom-out instead of feeling like we were hitting a wall in the final bit of travel. Overall, the Spur gets the nod on descents. If the Yeti had the same geometry as the Spur, this comparison may have been another story.

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Which Bike is Better?

This is a tough call considering the wildly different characters of these two bikes. Both of them have great traits, but neither of them is perfect. We suggest that prospective buyers look at their own riding tendencies, both in skill sets and trails being ridden. Either option could replace a trail bike, both could race XC or a stage race, but they need to be ridden as they were intended. The Yeti will fit like a glove for riders who spend more time in the saddle, pedaling through chop, and at lower speeds. The Transition is the better option for downhillers who want an efficient bike that feels familiar on descents.

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Things That Could Be Improved

Both bikes are dialed out of the box. Our only real quibble was the same issue with both bikes — the brakes. SRAM’s G2 RSC brakes with 180mm rotors (and only 160mm rear on the Spur) simply aren’t up to the task of slowing these capable bikes down. We recognize that Squamish is a demanding location, and 190-pounds isn’t typical XC-racer-weight, but compared to the power of what the competitors are offering, the G2 RSC needs more oomph. We changed the pads to get the most of them, but still wanted more, finding that we needed to drag our brakes too frequently. With little bikes as capable as the SB115 and the Spur, the brakes fell short. DH brakes on a downcountry bike? Ever been to Downieville? It’s a thing. Note: Transition has indicated that rear rotors will be 180mm in the future.

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Long-Term Durability

The Switch Infinity has more moving parts than the GiddyUp, which we noted only when it came time to maintain the SB115 and the Spur. Neither bike complained as we repeatedly subjected them to terrain better suited to enduro bikes, but we did find that we spent more time chasing creaks on the Yeti, usually originating from the Infinity Link. Maintenance isn’t difficult, but the SB115 definitely needed more attention than the Transition. The GiddyUp and flex stay is remarkably simple considering how well it performs, and other than some additional Loctite, the Transition needed very little attention.

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Both bikes run DT Swiss 1700 series wheels, which are ideal for these bikes. While purists might choose to run a second wheelset for race weekends, anything lighter would have struggled to withstand the abuse that these frames encourage. Both bikes have plugs in the tires, the Maxxis Rekon on the Transition has been replaced, but the wheels are running true.

What’s The Bottom Line?

Either of these bikes could replace a trail bike, especially for those living in less demanding locations or for riders looking for a short-travel bike that can handle abuse. With more powerful brakes and a 210mm dropper post, we would have made even bolder (unwise) line choices. The Yeti SB115 has better suspension, with geometry suited for riders who spend more time seated and steering through technical, lower speed trails. This bike would get our nod if we lived in a place like Vermont. The Transition Spur may not have things quite as perfected in the suspension department, but their Speed Balanced Geometry makes up for this difference. Riders who spend more time standing, descending at higher speeds, or who have stronger bike handling skills will get more from the Spur. For our tastes and terrain, the Transition Spur took the win. We would gladly race XCO on Saturday, and shuttle on Sunday, just like many of Transition’s faithful already do. Depending on your riding habits, one of these downcountry options may very well be a suitable replacement for your current daily driver.

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Vital MTB Rating

Yeti SB115

  • Climbing – 4.5 Stars
  • Descending – 3 Stars
  • Fun Factor – 3 Stars
  • Overall Impression – 3.5 Stars

Transition Spur

  • Climbing – 4 Stars
  • Descending – 4.5 Stars
  • Fun Factor – 4.5 Stars
  • Overall Impression – 4 Stars

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About The Reviewer

Joel Harwood – Age: 37 // Years Riding MTB: 20+ // Height: 5’11” (1.80m) // Weight: 185-pounds (83.9kg)

Joel’s unique coaching background and willingness to tinker with products bring an objective perspective to testing. He dabbles in all types of racing, but is happiest simply exploring the limitless trail networks surrounding his home of Squamish, BC. Attention to detail, time in the saddle, and an aggressive riding style make Joel a rider that demands the most from his products while exposing any shortcomings.

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